Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders made it official today, announcing J.J. Barea had been waived after the team reached a negotiated buyout with the veteran guard.
That means Barea will be free to sign with another team, and that Flip decided to go with rookie Glenn Robinson for the final roster spot. For Saunders, the decision came down to the direction he wants to take the team.
“We thought it best to go in a different direction,” Saunders said. “J.J. has been a consummate pro. I thought he had a very good training camp for us, and played really well in the preseason. He’s been a pro, he’s done everything we asked him to do. And so we wish him well moving forward.”
But the Wolves have committed themselves to developing their young roster.
“I think it was a situation that, with Mo Williams coming in, [Barea} didn’t feel he’d get as much of an opportunity,” Saunders said. “ And we also felt that Glenn Robinson has a chance to be a very good player in this league. And so what happens is, when you make a decision as an organization to go in a certain direction… you either have to be committed to it or not.’’
Barea is reportedly interested in signing with Dallas, the team he was with before coming to the Wolves., after he clears waivers.
Barea spent three seasons with the team. He averaged 11.3 points in each of his first two seasons here, 8.4 points per game last season. Barea was due just over $4.5 million this season, the final year of his contract.
That means that Ricky Rubio and Williams will handle the bulk of the point guard duties, with rookie first-round draft pick Zach LaVine as the No. 3, though Saunders indicated that the team likely wouldn’t need a third point guard that often. “But Zach would be the third [point] guard in that situation,” Saunders said. “As we get into it, we simplify game plans as we go in, so it will be easier for Zach to play in those situations as we move forward.’’
In other news, Andrew Wiggins, who returned full-time to practice Sunday, was fine Monday and is set for the opener. Saunders said all 15 players on the roster are healthy.
The Wolves returned to practice Sunday, and the good news is that both Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad were back and going 100 percent.
Wiggins had been bothered by a hard fall on his backside sustained at Tulsa Oct. 19 in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder and had not played since. Muhammad, meanwhile, has been pestered by a sore heel.
But both were good to go today. And coach Flip Saunders said he expects both to be good going forward, though both will be evaluated Monday to see how they responded to Sunday’s practice.
Wiggins, though, didn’t mince words. “I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I’m good. I feel good.”
Here are some other nuggets from today’s workout:
--Saunders reiterated that the Wolves will likely wait until the Monday afternoon deadline before making the move to bring the roster – currently at 16 players – down to the regular-season limit of 15.
--He said that Brady Heslip, who was waived Saturday, has the shooting ability to one day find a spot in the NBA.
That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after Monday’s practice.
The Wolves are starting Ronny Turiaf, Thad Young, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea tonight against an injury-depleted Oklahoma City team in Tulsa.
Where'd that lineup come from?
Answer: From practice yesterday.
That was the team out of three split up for practice that won the most scrimmages at BOK Center Saturday afternoon, so that's who's starting.
Coach Flip Saunders said he'll experiment with different lineups tonight, "depending on how things go"
Martin will play for the first time this preseason now that he's deemed recovered from that groin injury, but Shabazz Muhammad won't play tonight after he returned yesterday for his first hard practice back from that heel injury.
Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad wore a protective boot on his sore heel, a precautionary measure for the next couple days that Flip Saunders said doctors ordered to calm tendinitis.
He's not expected to do much, if anything at all, at practice until at least Thursday, Saunders said.
That makes him unlikely to play Friday against Milwaukee in Cedar Rapids, Ia.
Meanwhile, Kevin Martin did more today with that healing groin injury. He did some live action and will do more as the week goes on.
Saunders said it's possible he'll play this weekend, which could mean Sunday's game against Oklahoma City in Tulsa at the latest.
Saunders and the Wolves are being cautious because their No. 1 objective is to get through this preseason without a major injury, unlike Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Washington with Bradley Beal.
He's measuring practice and playing time for the Wolves players who participated in last month's FIBA World Cup in Spain: J.J. Barea didn't play Friday against Philadelphia and he basically gave Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng off from practice on Saturday.
Also, Anthony Bennett said he went to the eye doctor yesterday and has been cleared to play without those goggles to protect his eyes after Lasik surgery. Although he said he played pretty well with them, so he joked he reserves the right to go back to them if need be.
One other thing before I go: The NBA announced today it will experiment this weekend with a shortened 44-minute game between Brooklyn and Boston.
I polled Flip and some Wolves players on it -- reserve guard Mo Williams didn't like the idea one bit, would rather they play 52 minutes so the reserves get more PT -- and will write about that for Wednesday's paper and the web site.
Wolves veteran forward Corey Brewer got whacked in the mouth during today's practice and chipped two teeth that will require a trip back to the Twin Cities from Mankato to have them fixed.
"That's a major injury for him because of the way he smiles, that takes away all the laughing and smiling," coach Flip Saunders said.
Brewer is expected back in time for Saturday's practice, the team's second-to-last session in Mankato for camp.
Not sure if that means he'll be back in time for tonight's annual lasagna feed at owner Glen Taylor's Mankato home.
He was injured during a collision with Thad Young for a loose ball.
Brewer stopped practice early on the same day Nikola Pekovic and Glenn Robinson III returned to work after they sat out Thursday.
Pekovic didn't practice Thursday, a precautionary measure Flip Saunders said he'll use occasionally this season to try diminish the wear-and-tear on Pek's ankles and feet.
Robinson mildly sprained an ankle in Wednesday night's scrimmage, but appeared to be running fine today.
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